Esther Dyson On Health Care: “Don’t Fight The System, Erode It”

Technology polymath Esther Dyson has always been interested in healthcare and especially how data and personal devices can make us healthier. She is an active investor in a few healthcare startups and sits on the board of personal genomics company 23andMe. In the video interview above, she explains how startups can help change healthcare for the better: “Don’t fight the system, erode it.”

Dyson thinks of healthcare in much broader terms than many people do. There is the current healthcare system with hospitals, doctors, and insurance—that is the intractable part that is hard to change. But then there are all sorts of activities around the periphery that are more in our control, what she calls user-generated healthcare.” Increasingly, technology is making it easier for us to collect personal health and fitness data to help us combat our own vices such as drugs, alcohol, bad food and sitting around. It is user-generated because we create and collect our own health data through personal fitness devices like Fitbit or aself-measurement services like GreenGoose, and can view our personal health dashboards online.

What she sees is an opportunity at the nexus of data, health, and motivation. “Information doesn’t change people’s behavior. You need to be able to somehow motivate.” Sometimes seeing your progress can be a big motivator, but sometimes it takes social pressure.

In the clip below, Dyson gets into the promise of personal genomics. She explains to me how 23andMe works. You can get a snapshot of your personal genomic information now for only $99, plus $9 a month. It cost $1,000 just a few years ago.

These clips are part of a longer interview. Be sure to watch Dyson talk about Google+, why the new top-level domains are a bad idea, and space entrepreneurship.